New Year at the Middle Land – Winter Spiti

Alpha

Going to Neverland
New Year at the Middle Land – Winter Spiti

Journey Details -

Dates of journey: 27th December 2019 (night) – 3rd January 2020
Route Taken: Delhi – Shimla – Narkanda – Spello – Nako – Tabo – Kaza (Key, Kibber, Chicham, Langza, Komic, Sagnam) – Kalpa – Shimla – Delhi
Total Distance Covered: 1720 kms (approx)
Manpower: Alpha(Alok), MindlessWanderer(Kashish Tandon), Manoj Gupta
Vehicle used: Isuzu DMax VCross 4WD owned by Manoj Gupta

After successive visits to Ladakh in 2012 and 2013 during the peak winter season, we were keen to travel to Spiti Valley in the white season. What Spiti offered was a completely different experience. While, we had to fly down to Leh to cover the Ladakh valley, Spiti allowed us somewhat to travel by road. We desired to test ourselves, our resolve, our vehicles and our driving abilities too.

Spiti in winters posed many challenges too.

Back in 2013-14, Spiti valley was not yet open to tourists in general. Roads were prone to close down for days due to heavy deposits of snow and landslides. Stay options were limited. The road trip required lots of planning and luck, unlike Ladakh where it was somewhat better logistically. Nevertheless, 6 of us with two capable vehicles started marching for mission Spiti during February 2014. However, incessant snowfall did not let us beyond Reckong Peo. Delightful Kinnaur

After the set back of 2014, we planned few more times but it could not materialize. Two more attempts were made without me but those attempts failed too. Again, in February 2019, another attempt was made but we were again thwarted by the snow slide at Tinku Nallah near Pooh. While returning back to Spello, we had a narrow escape when our rear wheel flew off into Sutlej River. Disappointed once again, we came back to Delhi. Winter Spiti: an unfinished business, yet again

Frustrated time and again by failed attempts to Spiti, we decided to visit Ladakh once again in winters to experience the high altitude cold. We intended to celebrate new years’ day at Hanle in Ladakh. We booked our return tickets in the month of October 2019.

We waited for the days to pass. Just few days before our schedule, we received a bad news. Airlines on which we were booked in, had cancelled the flights. Ticket prices for new flights were prohibitively high. We were in double mind whether to go ahead with Winter Ladakh or not. We started planning for alternate destinations.

We flirted with an idea of an ambitious Pangi Valley trip where we would enter the Valley via Kishtwar and crossed the Cliffhanger Road to reach Killar. Thereafter to visit Keylong and return back via the same route. It seemed overambitious, though someone actually did that exactly few days after we could have done it. Our focus was once again on completing the unfinished task – Winter Spiti.

Hectic plans were made. We had sufficient days at hand. We sounded out to other accomplices from the failed attempts. However, we three were the only ones available for this sojourn. We chose Manoj Bhai’s Isuzu DMax Vcross 4WD for this trip which was fully prepared for the difficult conditions.

We regularly checked the weather updates and fortunately, the sky seemed to be clear during our journey dates. Though it gave us some comfort but we were little disappointed too to miss out the amazing drive on the white carpet roads.

After Christmas, the Delhi winters were getting biting cold but the news of Minus 30 degree Celsius at Kaza on Christmas day gave us lots of chill. I had caught a bad cold during the very first day my previous Winter Spiti attempt. I desperately wanted to avoid the repeat.
 
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Alpha

Going to Neverland
Delhi to Spello
Day One:
Route Taken: Delhi – Shimla – Narkanda – Spello
Distance Covered: 600 Kms (approx)

We started in the evening on 27th December 2020. Kashish flew down from Kuwait in the early hours and went straight to Manoj Bhai’s residence at Gurgaon. After packing up, he left from Gurgaon in the evening and picked me up at Janak Puri West Metro Station. After stuffing up my belongings in the huge trunk of the beast, we left for Karnal Bypass.

We had a slight incident at Mukarba Chowk where we overshot the loop for Karnal Bypass. While we reversed, a biker lost its balance and his bike fell down. His bike suffered some damages. We compensated him and started the drive again brushing aside any negative thoughts.

We stopped at Mannat Dhaba at Murthal for some refreshments. Drive after Murthal was little challenging due to dense fog and haphazard road conditions due to construction work. These conditions slowed us down considerably. However, the fog receded around Panipat. We again took a break at McDonald’s at Zirakpur. It was around 2.30 am when we left Zirakpur.

In another 3 hours or so, we had crossed Shimla and reached Kufri. We took a power nap at Kufri for an hour or so. We felt good after the power nap. Day break had already happened. We yearned for some Chai and found a shop open at Theog. It was a disappointment, nevertheless, we carried on.

We took a fuel break at Narkanda. Narkanda was very cold. Thereafter, we briefly stopped at the spot of first view of Sutlej River near Kingal. We were very hungry by the time we went past Narkanda. We decided to have a very late breakfast at Café Satluj at Rampur Bushahar. We left from Rampur around noon time.

waiting for Manoj Bhai and Kashish
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finally they have arrived
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first break
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another break past midnight
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visibility was alright past Zirakpur
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early morning views after Kufri
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much needed Chai break at Theog
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after tasting the tea we had no courage to try these
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lovely views
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Satluj view near Kingal
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posing for the camera
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breakfast at Rampur Bushahar
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Alpha

Going to Neverland
While on our way we started thinking about breaking the day either at Rekcong Peo/Kalpa or Spello. Peo was about 100 kms away while Spello was about 125 kms away. We had sufficient day light to reach both the places. In the end we decided to stay for the night at Spello gaining us head-start of about 30 kms on day 2. We reached Spello by 5.00 pm after crossing Jhakri, Wangtu, Karcham and Akpa. We stayed at Kuber Guest house where we had also stayed on our previous trip during February 2019. With this we concluded the first day of the journey covering about 600 kms in one go. We were tired and yearned for some good food but the dinner at the guest house was again disappointing but we had no other option. Thankfully the rooms were comfortable and water running, that’s what mattered the most at that time.

entering Kinnaur
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the famous Kinnaur dwar
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encountering a jam like situation
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Shongtong Bridge
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Kashish on Shongtong Bridge
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conditions after crossing Powari
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beautiful Satluj river
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icicles on the roadside
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Akpa Bridge
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Spello
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disappointing dinner
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